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How To Change Your Legal Name Without An Attorney

Applying to change your legal name is a fairly straightforward process with the procedures and rules set down by local courts and state law. And, although it’s straightforward, it’s not simple or free. In all states, you will be required to provide identification and establish that you are a legal resident. And, there are forms to fill out and a process to attend to.

You are, however, not allowed to change your name to avoid criminal responsibility or engage in fraudulent activities. In most instances, it is possible to carry out a name change without using an attorney, although a low cost name change service might be worth it. Here are the steps to follow to change your legal name without an attorney.

Verify Residency Requirements

The first step is to verify the residency requirements in your state. Under the law, you are allowed to use your local court to change your legal name, as long as you are a resident in that court’s jurisdiction. Different counties have different residency requirements.

You can check this requirement by contacting your local county court, where you can also file the paperwork needed. Visit the court’s information desk or ask for the civil filing clerk’s office. You can usually find this information online at the court’s website.

Gather Supporting Evidence

Gather up your birth certificate, Social Security card, and driver’s license or any valid photo ID. All these are useful to providing proof of your current legal name. While not all the documents listed above are required in all states or counties, it is always advisable to have them at hand when going through the process in case the judge, magistrate, or court clerk asks to see them. You’ll want to clean up any variations of your name during this name change process.


The next step is to complete a Petition for Change of Name. it is a set of forms that gets filed with the court clerk and includes all information required by state law and your court. You can find a blank set of forms online from the county or state government website or the numerous other websites that provide legal forms for a fee. There are inexpensive services that can fill them out correctly for you too. Ensure that you have the right forms for your state, county and court. You can either fill them out online and print it or download it and print it out.

You will be required to provide both your current and proposed names, your residence address, and the reason or reasons why you wish to change your name. You may also be required to sign declaration that you currently aren’t currently under the jurisdiction of law enforcement and aren’t required to register as a sex offender. There will likely be a lot of other information, and possibly some documents that your court will also required with your completed petition for filing.


Take your petition and the supporting documents to the court clerk and hand it over together with a filing fee to file your paperwork. Each court usually sets its own fees, but you can expect the petition to run between $100 and $600, unless you apply for a Fee Waiver.

The court clerk will date-stamp your petition and enter it into the public records before returning a copy to you. You may also be required to fill out a proposed order to be signed by the magistrate or judge. The clerk will then schedule you for a hearing docket, which may allow you to attend a hearing on the same day.

Public and Other Notices

You will likely be required to publish notice of your proposed name change in a certain manner. Ask the court clerk for written details of the process as this can be a little tricky. Most times, your judge won’t grant your name change until you show proof that you published the required notification for the general public. Some states also have rules about notifying spouses (former or current) and even children, about a name change before it can be granted.

If one parent is petitioning to change a child’s name, there are likely to be specific requirements about gaining the other parent’s consent or proving Notification in a specific way. There may be other rules about a child’s name change that apply, to read up about this before you go to see the judge for decision.


You will then be required to attend the hearing depending on your court’s rules, that will be presided over by a judicial officer. The judge may ask questions about any part of your petition or confidential background report, and may consider objections to the change if any were made.

When the hearing is over, upon approval, the judge will sign the order and you can be provided with a copy. You can also obtain certified copies of the order at the clerks office. A Certified Copy of the judially approved court order will be required to change the most important government and financial ID and Official Records

Notifying Others About the Name Change

Make sure that you change your name on all essential ID and Official Records. It may or may not make sense to change personal documents including titles, deeds, accounts, trusts, wills, and powers of attorney. Changing your name on estate planning documents may make it easier for your heirs in the future. Your heirs can obviously not be disinherited due to a discrepancy in your name, but they may be required to go through more steps to show your previous name and true identity before they are awarded their share. If you keep a Certified Copy of your judge-signed name change court order with your important papers, it can be of help.

Besides family and friends, consider notifying all the entities you deal with, in time, according to their priority in your life.Some of these are essential and others can be done when it’s convenient: Department of Motor Vehicles, schools, employers, debtors and creditors, insurance agencies, state taxing authority, utility and telephone companies, Registrar of Voters, Department of Records or Vital Statistics, Social Security Administration, passport office, veterans administration, public assistance, banks and other financial institutions.

If any of the entities above are not very cooperative when you inform them about the legal name change, tell them that it is well within your rights to do so and offer a copy of the court order. If necessary, you can try talking to the supervisor. Social Security, DMV, Passport, and Birth Certificate agencies are required to make those changes ONLY when you provide a certified copy of your valid court order, their completed application and possibly a small processing fee.

Keep in mind that many creditors and financial institutions will be reluctant for the fear of fraud and identity theft. Be patient and keep enforcing the use of the new name. It will eventually catch on everywhere, permanently.

Use Your New Name

The final step in changing your legal name is to start using it. You can do this by telling your friends and family members to refer to you by the new name, fill out applications and forms under the new name, and introducing yourself using the new name.  The older the friend, the harder it may be for them to use your new name all the time.

Final Thoughts

Every step outlined above is presented in more detail for California residents at the EZ Name Change website. It is clear that changing your name legally, whether due to divorce, marriage, personal choice or any other reason, it is always a big life event. The laws differ from state to state and it is important to ensure that you do it right, including filing the legal name change petition with the relevant government entity.  You want this to be effective everywhere.

You have learned how to change your name without an attorney. If you wish to change your name, all you have to do is follow the steps outlined above. However, if you find it all too challenging for you, find an experienced name change specialist (non-attorney) to walk you through the process, unless your state won’t let non-attorneys help you with the paperwork and the proces.